Three years ago, in the now-defunct Five Points Pub, two South Carolina bands were headed in different directions. Columbia’s Calculator was petering out; the gig would be the Tyler Morris-led quartet’s last show. Surfside’s Octopus Jones was seemingly on the rise; a few months later, the then-quintet would release its bouncy debut, Treat Yourself, which drew equally from ’70s disco, ’80s New Wave and ’90s indie.
But Octopus Jones would eventually sputter. The band pared down to the trio of guitarist and singer Danny Martin, bassist Clay Carlisle and drummer Darrin Cripe. After Martin graduated from Coastal Carolina, he moved back to his hometown of Columbia. He reconnected with Morris, spending the summer going to shows and driving to Charleston to indulge in some late-night jams with Ryan Zimmerman, a producer and engineer who plays with regionally popular pop act Brave Baby.
But South Carolina had turned stagnant, too comfortable for Octopus Jones and for Morris. So they uprooted to North Carolina, settling in Raleigh in September 2012. Morris, who had started playing with Octopus Jones by this point, joined the rest of the band in February 2013.
“It was a needed change,” Morris says. “We were stuck. Sometimes, I think people just stay stuck [in South Carolina] if they play so much. I feel like it was a step toward being a band instead of people who just play music.”
Phantasmagoria, the band’s new long-player, is redolent of a band that’s radically reinvented itself. Upon moving to Raleigh, three-fourths of the band lived in the same house, on eight acres of land on the outskirts of the Triangle. (The next-door neighbor, Morris claims, was NBA star John Wall.) The band jammed there, often until 3 a.m., and wrote and recorded, with Zimmerman, much of Phantasmagoria there, too. The album’s filled with a manic and weird energy that’s endemic of those late-night sessions, with Martin and Morris contributing an equal number of songs that shift and morph from rollicking spankwave to moody post-punk and sparse post-rock, like a tired mind that can’t focus on one thing for too long.
“It’s definitely a contrasting thing,” Morris says. “I feel like the album’s almost a Jekyll and Hyde-type thing, where there are two people fighting, in a way.”
The split songwriting duties broaden the band’s oeuvre. Martin’s twitchy ditties, such as surf-boogie opener “Afternight,” are propelled by a relentless funk verve. Morris’ crooners, like the cloudy “Sadata” and the moonlit “Downtown,” brood and bloom, filled with oblique imagery and a lithe, angular tension. Martin’s songs keep four on the floor, built on kinetic and elastic rhythms. Morris punctuates his meters in odd places and works his vocal lines against the beat, giving his standard-time songs a shadowy propulsion — something best observed during “Strange Satisfaction.” Martin yips and yelps, predicating his melodies on elastic vocal leaps. Morris smolders, mumbles and moans, wielding his deep voice like rumbling brass.
As much as Martin and Morris contrast, they complement each other rather well. Morris tempers Martin’s nerviness, and that added sense of calm expands the dynamics of jittery songs like “Don’t Touch My Tony.” In turn, Morris’ numbers get a boost from this siphoned energy: See “World of Steers,” given pep in its uptempo sections by Carlisle’s melodic bass line and Cripe’s steady drumming.
It’s clear the move north was a good one: Octopus Jones’ songs have become sharper and more fluid. The relocation has worked out strategically, too. The Triangle is closer to Washington, D.C., where the band’s already made inroads, and it positions them close to target cities like Philadelphia and New York.
“A lot of this is us learning who we are as a band, especially when having to mix my style up a little bit,” Morris says. “I think this is just us showing people what we are. This is just us.”
Octopus Jones plays New Brookland Tavern on Saturday, Jan. 25. New Brookland Tavern is at 121 State St. in West Columbia. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.; admission is $5, $8 under 21. With Co., Stagbriar, Elonzo, Mechanical River. Call 791-4413 or visit newbrooklandtavern.com for more information.
Not Your Typical Greek Restaurant
Ariana’s in West Columbia serves up delicious all-natural, low carb dishes, as well as homemade bread and baklava. Come try the best salad dressing in town! Location info and hours here.
Accepting Applications for Shakespeare’s Kidz!
Students ages 10-16 are invited to join South Carolina Shakespeare’s new youth company, with classes running September 20th-December 11th followed by a final performance. Learn and hone audition skills, monologues, and scenes from Shakespeare and modern works! Contact Katie Mixon with questions about scholarships and applications: PKatieMixon@gmail.com.
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
A two-day outdoor art and crafts show celebrating its 38th year. Being held on September 5 & 6, 2014, Click for details
Make Your Own Beer and Wine!
Come get started on your “liquid hobby” and help us celebrate our 46th year in the Columbia area. Bet Mar Liquid Hobby Shop: 736 St. Andrews Road.
Delicious Downtown Breakfast
Tony’s is open for breakfast every day from 7:30-10:30! Conveniently located on Washington St. right off Main. Stop in for something filling and delicious before work! Follow us for updates on specials.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Company seeking carpenters, plumbers, masons work is year around with a 40 year old company. Starting pay is $10.00 but experienced individuals will be compensated accordingly. Must have a clean driving record and must bring a copy of your driving record to the interview. Please call 803-865-1200.
Pool Cleaning-Full and part time available. Must have a clean driving record, be organized and have a professional appearance. Starting Pay is $10.00 per hr, please call for an interview, please bring a copy of your Driving record and a list of all past employers with duration of employment listed as well as telephone numbers for references. Cal 803-865-1200
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com